Federated IAM can ease the burden of juggling multiple log-ins within districts.

As district ed-tech directors discover new ways to integrate technology in their schools, “federated identity management”—having a common set of policies, practices, and protocols in place to manage the identity of users, and which applications they have access to—has become a way for ed-tech leaders to streamline and juggle users’ access to different resources.

A common way to do this is to provide single sign-on access for each user, meaning a single log-in would give users access to any resources they’re entitled to on the network. Now, a new primer from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) aims to help ed-tech leaders understand single sign-on, its role in identity management, and its benefits and challenges.

Single Sign-On, Multiple Benefits: A Primer on K-12 Federated Identity and Access Management” examines the movement toward federated identity management in education. The primer is part of CoSN’s 2011 Compendium and is available online free of charge.

“As the internet increasingly becomes the repository for resources and the foundation for interaction and collaboration, finding and gaining ready access to appropriate resources is an emerging challenge,” the report notes. “The more people rely on online resources, the more unwieldy it is to efficiently and effectively manage the gatekeeping mechanisms—different user names, passwords, eMail addresses and, for some sites, security questions.”

A typical K-12 school district might require separate log-ins for its student information system, transportation system, and library system. A district employee with authorized access to all three systems might have three user names and passwords, and all three systems would have the same authentication data pertaining to that specific district employee.

An identity and access management model would give that district employee a single sign-on for all three systems, without duplicating the authentication data three times.